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Thread: Economics of open space preservation

  1. #1

    Economics of open space preservation

    Many local governments in southeastern PA and adjoining areas in NJ have passed bond referenda and other measures for the purchase of land or conservation easements for open space purposes. In Bucks County, PA, 14 municipalities have raised over $90 million and others have passed earned income and real estate tax measures. Studies indicate it is simply less expensive to make these investments in land that for the taxpayers of the community to fund the shortfall between the costs of residential development and the tax revenues generated. Heritage Conservancy has published Opportunity Knocks: Open Space as a Community Investment. This study will be updated and revised in 2001. We are looking for additional related information. Contact Mike Frank (email address deleted)

  2. #2
    Here in the states, we are limited in the type and amount of "exactions" we can place on a development. In most states, unless the land is absolutly unbuildable, or otherwise a liability to the developer, then the government must pay to get the land set aside.

    While I support the idea of Purchase of Development Rights, as Michael Frank describes, I've seen some that look like either a broad form deed, or a no interest loan program. I still haven't seen the concept fully worked out here in the states. I think it will take a little more time before it becomes the kind of tool we can use to replace strong rural zoning.

  3. #3
    Local Governments in Queensland Australia can employ a variety of mechanisms to secure publicly accessible Open Space. Brisbane City Council (where i spent 8 years) introduced a "Bushland Protection Levy" in the early 1990s. This costs each ratable property $AUS 30 a year (approx $15 US !!!). The purpose was to purchase at-risk habitat (usually Koala habitat - Eucalypt forests), passive recreation is allowed in most of these sites. With those funds, BCC has purchased approx 1,600ha of bushland and wetland throughout the City at a cost of $50M.
    Local Govt. can also obtain open space contributions from proponents of rezonings and subdivisions as a condition of approval. This amount can be up to 10% of land area. Alternatively a monetary contribution can be sought). While employed at Redland Shire Council (south of Brisbane), we often negotiated park contributions of around 20% of land area. This was possible because the Shire had a detailed series of Development Control Plans with certain lands designated as open space along waterway corridors and foreshores.(developers are never happy giving up foreshores, Appeals are common but are often refused in the Courts)
    Local Govts. can also be given trusteeship of state agency lands deemed to be surplus. Gvt. Land Policy requires those agencies to undertake a planning assessment to determine "Most Appropriate Use". Often it is determined that the best use for those properties is for environmental protection or some other community use. The agency that owns the property must then go cap in hand to Treasury and seek to have the asset written off. Recently BCC was given control of a 4ha bushland site in the midst of a established residential suburb on Brisbanes south side. The site had a market value of $2M. The site was a surplus school site owned by Education Dept.

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